WHO: Aarti Virani, Arts and Culture Writer
by Olivia Mason
BIO: Aarti is a New York-based arts and culture writer, covering the South Asian diaspora. Steered by curiosity, empathy and cross-cultural communication, she seeks to tell stories that shine a light on people and communities that are often overlooked. Born and raised in Japan, Aarti encountered her passion for writing and storytelling after the calamitous Hanshin Earthquake, penning a personal account of the tragedy as a wide-eyed child. It’s a passion she has nurtured since arriving in the United States nearly 15 years ago, obtaining a magazine journalism degree from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University along the way. Subsequently, while getting a M.A. in international affairs at Manhattan’s New School, Aarti honed her reporting skills as a features writer for Metro, the world’s largest international newspaper, keeping a vigilant finger on the cultural pulse of New York City. Her writing has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Vogue India (where she is a Contributing Editor), CNN.com, Saveur and Travel + Leisure, among other publications. Aarti was previously a Teaching Fellow at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, while she currently serves on the board of the South Asian Journalists Association, a national nonprofit, where she directs efforts to ensure mainstream new media organizations provide fair and accurate coverage of the increasingly diverse South Asian-American community.
“Hi, I’m Olivia, one of the Uzeeum writers and I will be taking over the Guest Contributor posts for the summer. I’m looking forward to chatting with our guests over the next couple of months and bringing your their museum recommendations. As someone very interested in the arts and the fabulous culture in New York City I think the addition of writer Aarti Virani to our series could not be better. She and her museum suggestions perfectly demonstrate the beauty and diversity of museum adventures that you can find all across New York City. Watch this space for more great recommendations every couple of days.” – Olivia
O: What is your favorite museum?
O: Favorite museum memory?
A: On a recent visit to the Met, I remember being inexplicably drawn to a carved wooden dome in the museum’s South Asia section. When I gave the structure a closer look, the description revealed that it was extracted from the ceiling of a prayer hall in Patan, Gujarat — the home of my ancestors. I’ve never traveled to Patan but I remember feeling an intense connection to that dome, and I’ll never forget that feeling.
O: What was the last museum that you visited? What was the occasion or reason?
A: The 9/11 Memorial and Museum last week with my in-laws, who were visiting from Tennessee. I’d never been myself, and was reluctant to go, not wanting to relive such a tragic day. But I’m glad I visited and witnessed how poignantly the curators chose to memorialize the events of September 11th, and what a diversity of voices they included in each of the exhibits.
O: What’s your favorite NYC experience?
A: A long and lazy outdoor meal in the West Village, followed by an equally long and lazy walk through Washington Square Park. For a nightcap, I’d make my way to Angel’s Share, an East Village speakeasy, accessible only through a hidden door at Village Yokocho, a Japanese restaurant.
O: Favorite NYC brunch option?
O: Most romantic NYC recommendation?
A: Discovering an extra-quiet pocket of Central Park, then catching a show at the Hayden Planetarium, then making the trek across town (it’s worth it, I promise) for dinner at Hudson Clearwater – but make sure to reserve one of the five tables in the restaurants “hidden” garden patio.
O: What are you currently reading?
O: What NYC street food are you most likely to eat?
A: To be totally honest, I’m a committed herbivore and try to steer clear. Does 99 cent pizza count?
O: Which museum is on your bucket list?
A: The National Art Center in Tokyo, Japan
O: Which museum to you typically recommend to out-of-towners?
A: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
O: What do you collect?
A: Books (I’ve yet to go the Kindle route!) and stationery.
O: Which item might you donate to a museum that best represents your life?
A: My weather-beaten MetroCards and all my dog-eared cookbooks.
O: What show do you binge watch?
A: Friday Night Lights, Billions, Veep, House of Cards
O: If I were to hand you $5000 for completing this interview, where are you headed to shop?
A: Anthropologie and ABC Home
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PHOTO CREDITS AND DISCLAIMERS
*© Wave Hill
**© Flying Naga; Nepal or Tibet; 14th century; gilt copper alloy; repoussé; Rubin Museum of Art
***© Bronx Museum
*^*© George Hirose/Courtesy of Japan Society